When the Baltimore Ravens drafted offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley with the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, it marked not only the end of Eugene Monroe's days in Baltimore, but the end of James Hurst as the starting left tackle. It was a breath of fresh air. Hurst was consistently beat at the line and will forever be remembered as the guy who was shoved into quarterback Joe Flacco's knee late last year, tearing the quarterback's ACL and ending his season. The Ravens even drafted versatile lineman Alex Lewis in the fourth round of the 2016 draft.
The problem was the Ravens lacked veteran depth at left tackle after Stanley. To try to solve this problem, the Ravens went out and signed a plan B. Someone the team can rely on if Stanley were to go down or if he wasn't ready. That man was Jake Long. Or at least he was supposed to be. The former four-time Pro Bowler signed a one-year contract with the Ravens before training camp started.
Unfortunately, due to concerns with Longs knee, the same knee that he tore his ACL in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014, Long was asked to get his knee checked out after his physical and sign an injury waiver. If Long were to sign the injury waiver, it would protect the Ravens financially in case Long had more issues with the knee. Long got good reviews from Dr. Andrews but he was still asked to sign the injury waiver. Long declined and he became a free agent once again.
So the Ravens entered the year with no veteran insurance policy behind their highly touted rookie at one of the most important positions in the NFL. Now, the risk of not having a true backup plan may come back to bite them this week. During Wednesday's practice, Ronnie Stanley was seen in a walking boot and missed practice on Thursday. Add in Alex Lewis who is currently going through concussion protocol.
So, for potentially the second time already this season, the Ravens could be looking at a new left side of the offensive line. The good news is at left guard the team has legit options with the likes of John Urschel and Ryan Jensen having experience at the position and contributing. The bad news is there isn't a true backup at left tackle. Which leaves James Hurst.
Hurst has experience and has started the last two years for the injured Eugene Monroe, but that’s where the positives end. He struggled mightily and some felt he was not going to make the 53-man roster this year. Myself included. Yet here we are as the year enters October and James Hurst is in line to start once again with Stanley's status up in the air. This could come at a bad time for the Ravens as they face an Oakland Raiders defense that features Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack.
If Hurst gets the nod, will this be the game where he finally puts it together and contributes for the Ravens in relief of Stanley? Or will this be the same old song and dance for the former 2014 undrafted free agent? One way or another, we'll get our answer soon.